Archive for May, 2006

Wind farms across country stopped by political maneuver

May 31, 2006 4 comments

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2006 (UPI)—The U.S. government has ordered work stopped on more than a dozen wind farms, saying the giant turbines might interfere with military radar.

Not buying that for a minute.  The new wind turbines are about 310 feet tall.  How low does military radar need to go?  I suppose a threatening plane could fly 200 feet off the ground in a circle around the turbines…

But supporters of wind power say the reason for the actions is political and has little to do with national security, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

In one instance, critics say, a group of wealthy vacationers believe a proposed wind farm off the Cape Cod, Mass., coast would spoil the view of the ocean from their summer homes.

Ah.  Call me cynical, but that, I can believe.

The attempt to stop the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms across Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, the Tribune reported…
- Post Chronicle: Government blocks wind farm plans

Great.  A bunch of wealthy people (including Ted Kennedy) are whining about the Cape Wind Project and it puts a stop to a part of our national energy portfolio. 

Yes, some people don’t like windmills.  Are they the same people who want action on global warming?  Wonder how their precious cape will look after sea level comes up five feet or so?  What will it do to their tourism industry if their quaint New England towns are under water?  Will they be petitioning the government for levees?  How quaint will that look?

It’s the 21st century now.  We need a more diverse energy portfolio, and not just for environmental reasons.  We especially need to take advantage of environmental energy differentials.  By their nature, such differentials are more diffuse than concentrated energy sources like coal or oil, so will necessarily require large structures to harvest.  If they’re waiting for the environmentally perfect (and concentrated!) energy source to come along, it’s going to be a long wait.  We just don’t have that kind of time.

26 million veterans harmed by VA carelessness

May 29, 2006 5 comments

After soldiers serve our country at the risk of their lives, setting high the limits of human courage and devotion, our Veterans Administration does what, in reward?

Thief Steals 26.5 Million Veterans’ Identities… an information technology worker at the VA Admnistration took a laptop home, containing the personal records of 26 million discharged veterans.  This information includes Social Security numbers and dates of birth, just what’s needed for identity theft.  It’s really, really bad, especially that someone broke into the guy’s house and stole the laptop…

It’s especially egregious that the VA kept it a secret for 19 days afterward, since the best defense against identity theft is if the potential victim takes action to monitor their accounts and put a fraud watch on their credit activity. 

I have written before about this kind of carelessness and what kind of havoc it can wreck on the lives of people who entrust companies with it.  There are a few simple rules – the most important being, datasets like that should never be on a laptop in the first place (it wasn’t even encrypted!).  If it absolutely must be accessed from offsite, a SSL+VPN is called for.  And if, on review, there is NO OTHER WAY to proceed than by carrying the dataset on a portable device, strong encryption is called for. 

This was not exactly a fluke – the worker had been doing the same thing for years, apparently with the knowledge of his superiors (who are now backpedaling furiously).  The Veterans Administrations has also received warnings about this very problem, and apparently ignored them.

What does it take for institutions to at least act as if they care?  Practically every institutional disaster in history has followed some variation of “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine” and even punishing those who say otherwise.

How about; “Pretend this is YOUR data and you could have your financial identity stolen”.  What should happen to the guy who took home the laptop?  His supervisor?  The group that wrote the VA’s data security regulations? 

And to the veterans, especially the 26 million whose data was stolen, thank you.  You deserve so much better than what you get, seemingly every time you turn around.

Photo of 3 American flags hanging from giant cranes on I-74 between Bloomington and Urbana, Illinois, this afternoon.

Categories: Geeky, Security

When you’re a Jet…

May 27, 2006 10 comments

It’s a basic truth in life; little things matter.  I just rejetted my VW carb to better account for alcohol in the gas. Both jets together probably weigh about a quarter of an ounce but it made a HUGE difference in the drivability of the car. The engine is much smoother and has a lot more power at low speeds.

Details:  It’s a Bocar 34PICT-3 carb, and I just installed a 130 main jet, and a 55 idle jet.  Remember on the 34PICT-3 the idle jet affects drivability and power up to about 2,000 rpm when the main jet takes over.  In other words, it’s extremely crucial for in-town driving.  The engine has a Brazilian 1600DP longblock with stock cam and crankshaft, standard intake manifold, and a SVDA distributer from  Electric fuel pump and separate fuel pressure regulator set and tested to 2 lbs.  The fuel pressure regulator was wildly inaccurate by the way, so be sure to actually measure the pressure and not depend on the setting.  I recommend locating all filters, pumps, and regulators outside the engine compartment.  My car has one filter under the gas tank and another above the transmission between fuel pump and regulator.  The tank has Shell regular gas in it right now (15% alcohol) but it runs the same on Citgo or Wal-Mart gas for that matter.  (Jets shown slightly enlarged for detail)

UPDATE- I have consolidated this post and all the other fuel and carburetion related posts into one: 34PICT-3 Carburetor Final.  That post will also be updated when new information comes in.

Categories: Personal, VW

A picture is worth *cough* a thousand words…

May 27, 2006 17 comments

“The public are being asked to choose a series of picture warnings to appear on cigarette packets beginning next year. People can give their opinion on a range of images designed to highlight the dangers of smoking on a website set up by the Department of Health.

Evidence shows that images have a greater impact than written health warnings alone, and they have already been introduced in some countries. “
- BBC News: Graphic images deter smokers

Two thoughts:  First, this campaign is much better than banning cigarettes.  Just get the facts out there and let people decide.  From a government perspective, you can’t save every individual from their own bad choices, so it’s better to preserve freedom and avoid creating a black market (which would surely happen).

Second, this is the right way to convey the message.  As design guru Don Norman says, “Signs don’t work” because people don’t read them.

Categories: Safety & Health

This is why we have a ‘shortage’ of landfill space

May 25, 2006 4 comments

It’s odd, I know, but I like to look in dumpsters.  Trash is where you see the whole chain of consumer value from the other side; what are people willing to pay to get rid of?  In this case, it’s a couple hundred 4-foot fluorescent light tubes.  Each one contains a few milligrams of mercury but they’re going to a plain old landfill alongside my dinner leftovers.

I commute on a bicycle and my route takes me past this dumpster, which is near a large building.  It has this many bulbs in it about twice a month.  And that’s just one building.  Multiply it by all the superstores and hospitals and… well you name it… and you get a pretty significant amount of mercury.  In landfills it is turned into particularly nasty organic compounds by bacteria, the kind that feed on my dinner leftovers.  These compounds can outgas with the methane that landfills constantly produce.

‘Simple’ solution?  (OK, not so simple) separate out toxic and non-toxic trash.  Then there’d be no shortage of space for bulky, non-toxic trash.  And we’d keep the mercury out of the biosphere.

Think it would cost a lot?  Many lakes and streams in Illinois can no longer produce edible fish due to mercury.  That’s a huge industry, shot down.  Much of the mercury comes from from burning coal, but a goodly amount of it – and other nasty chemicals too – comes from dumpsters like this.  Big economic impact. 

That’s why landfills need elaborate containment systems, and an expensive political process to locate them far from people with enough clout to mount an effective protest.  I have a hunch it would be cheaper to deal with the toxic stuff separately when you account the real cost.

Hillary Clinton does her Jimmy Carter imitation

May 25, 2006 9 comments

Over at Stupid Evil Bastard is a discussion of “Hillary Clinton thinks we should go back to 55 mph”.  It’s hard to imagine a dumber statement from a politician right now and if the Democratic leadership has any brains at all, they will NOT consider her as a candidate.  Go check it out.

Who’s your dream Democrat ticket?  Somebody who actually has a chance of winning and won’t say stupid stuff like that.

Update: apparently Hillary’s on a roll by saying young people don’t like to work

Categories: Politics

DaVinci Code Review Review

May 23, 2006 6 comments

Blockbuster movies are rarely good, so I usually wait until they are available at my favorite video store.  This is because I’m cheap, I have a low threshold of boredom, and muscle pain gets to be a problem after about forty minutes in any chair. 

So it is with great pleasure that I present a review of The DaVinci Code from my friend Pete.  He’s an evangelical Christian so this one’s safe for the whole family.  :-P

While on the DVC subject, Real Live Preacher  lays down the truth track on all the church protests about the book and movie.  To wit: if I ever write a book that is in any way even mildly critical of Christianity or the Catholic Church, I should be sure to send advance copies of it to religious leaders and ask them to try to ban it.  (RLP link from ***Dave)

Categories: Movies, Reviews

A little reminder for our elected representatives

May 22, 2006 1 comment

As we are obviously gearing up the passions of war, just a little reminder to our elected representatives:

The text continues:

“Our collective conscience just got the better of us,” said Lardbottom.  “If we can fly to Washington for a special session to do a political dance over the withering body of Terri Schaivo, we can damn well do the constitutional job we were elected to do!”

In some ways, the return to a constitutional separation of powers was bigger news than invading Iran.  “After all,” said one Faux News analyst, “We’ve based our entire international position on the threat of invasion.  Just recently we invaded some country I never heard of just because they looked at us funny.  Now it will be harder to start wars and other countries will steal our lunch and give us wedgies.”

But many applauded the change.  Professor Knowswhatte Talkinnabout, PhD, a political scientist and author of the best-selling book, Why Our Constitution Matters (and how to get it back), said; “It appears Congress has finally realized: any road they pave for one president can easily be travelled by another.  Perhaps the American people shamed them into actually doing their jobs and taking responsibility.”

From Newspaper Clipping Generator that I have seen on several of my favorite blogs.

Categories: Uncategorized

OK, this VW is probably faster than mine

May 21, 2006 Comments off

While it is true that the Brazilian engine I have in my VW is used in some light aircraft, I think this guy has me beat.  (The article loads right away, but if you click on the video it takes a while)

Tip ‘o the hat to Socialist Swine for the link!  :wow:

Categories: Personal, VW


May 20, 2006 7 comments

Last night MrsDoF graduated from Heartland Community College with an Associate of Arts Degree in Education. 

It’s been a difficult road for her, combining current classwork with what could be transferred from her earlier education experiences over two decades ago.  She has been a Licensed Practical Nurse, an Emergency Medical Technician (and ambulance driver – forget your stereotype about women drivers!), and until recently a child care worker.  This last is a job of importance that far exceeds the respect it receives.

Congratulations, sweetheart!

Categories: Personal